By Ellen Thompson/Havre Daily Newsfirstname.lastname@example.org
The Great Northern Fair Board voted this week to approve the possibility of a special events center at the fairgrounds.
The board added a condition: A study would have to be completed to assess the impact of saline seep on the proposed structure.
Two years ago, a Minneapolis-based company, Creative Sports and Leisure, was hired by a group of local business and government officials to study the feasibility of an events center in Havre and concluded the city and surrounding area could support a 6,000-seat facility.
A Havre Area Chamber of Commerce subcommittee has been reviewing six of the locations examined in the study. Last month, two spots emerged as favorites - the Hill County Fairgrounds and the Montana State University-Northern campus.
There are details to be considered at both sites. Questions have arisen about whether Northern has enough available parking to meet the needs of a 6,000-seat, 1,100-parking spot facility, though administrators have suggested changes that could be made to the campus to accommodate the facility and parking.
Saline seep at the fairgrounds is potential problem there. Saline seep is caused by rising groundwater that dissolves the salt in the rocks and minerals as it passes through. The water carries the salt to the surface, then evaporates, leaving behind a growing deposit of surface salt.
Saline seep can render cropland infertile, but at the fairgrounds the problem is that the soil is constantly moist and destructive to structures built on it, fair board member Alma Seidel said today. People and cars can also get temporarily stuck in the mud.
Seidel said she understood from her years on the fair board that the seep was exacerbated by the fact that surrounding areas, such as the roads and the Holiday Village Shopping Center, are covered by concrete. The groundwater has to surface somewhere, she said.
"That's a big concern because we've been fighting that for years," she said.
A pumping station has since helped with the problem, she said, expanding the amount of usable land.
The fair board suggested a possible location for the events center at the fairgrounds, fair manager Tim Solomon said today.
The board said the events center could sit on the area now occupied by the 4-H exhibit buildings and chuckwagon and extend south to the edge of the grounds. Parking would remain in its current location, he said.
Originally, the board had been hoping to retain those buildings, Seidel said, but that location would be sure to give the center adequate space.
Eliminating the chuckwagon raises the question of where to put another kitchen, Seidel said, because the proposed events center would only have a warming kitchen.
"One of the questions that came up is: Who's going to manage it?" she said. "And that hasn't been determined."
The next meeting of the chamber events center committee will be March 28 at 10 a.m. at U.S. Bank.